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Aron Shanagher

Aron Shanagher

SHC Qualifier: Clare too good for Limerick

All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship Round 2 Qualifier


By Jackie Cahill at Semple Stadium, Thurles

Clare have booked their place in the All-Ireland senior hurling championship quarter-finals following a four-point victory over Limerick in Thurles this evening. 

Davy Fitzgerald’s Banner County had a nine-point haul from 2013 Hurler of the Year Tony Kelly in glorious sunshine at Semple Stadium. Kelly took the sensible option from a late penalty as he clipped the ball over the bar to open up a four-point lead – 0-18 to 0-14.

James Ryan responded with a Limerick point but it was Kelly who had the final say in the fourth minute of stoppage time, lashing over a long-range effort to see Clare home. In the process, Clare smashed their recent qualifier hoodoo as they advanced to the last six.

They lost to Wexford in 2014 and Cork last year to exit the championship at the qualifier stage but this is a step forward for the men in saffron and blue. And it was Kelly who showed the leadership required to see them home.

On the balance of play, Clare were deserved winners and a blistering run of nine unanswered points in the first half provided the platform for victory. Clare signalled their intent with a point after just 15 seconds from Shanagher but fired-up Limerick hit back to lead by 0-4 to 0-1 and 0-5 to 0-2.

However, Darragh O’Donovan’s 7th-minute point was Limerick’s last from play in the entire first half and they didn’t score again before the break following Shane Dowling’s 65 in the 18th minute. That score followed a magnificent goal-saving intervention from Brendan Bugler to deny Dowling a goal – and Clare rallied by flashing over some brilliant points.

They had nine wides before the break, too, including four from Colm Galvin but Clare clicked into gear and overwhelmed Limerick. Podge Collins was excellent in a roving role and Shane O’Donnell clipped over a couple of points and worked hard to force errors and turnovers from Limerick defenders.

At half-time, Clare were 0-11 to 0-5 clear and looking winners all over but Limerick opened the second half with two points to narrow the gap to four. Back came Clare with a couple of settlers from Kelly; an O’Donnell point sandwiched in between, but Limerick had fight in them in what looks certain to be TJ Ryan’s last in charge.

Although Clare appeared to be keeping Limerick at arm’s length in front of 15,540 spectators, Ryan’s men rallied to within three points down the home straight. Clare nerves jangled but they helm firm to advance and while much of their work was of the highest class, a second half fadeout will concern manager Fitzgerald.

Scorers for Clare: T Kelly 0-9 (5f, 1 65, 0-1 pen), P Collins & S O’Donnell 0-3 each, D McInerney, J Browne, J Conlon & A Shanagher 0-1 each.

*Scorers for Limerick: *S Dowling 0-6 (5f, 1 65), D Byrnes 0-3, J Ryan 0-2, D O’Donovan, P Browne, K Downes & G Hegarty 0-1 each.

CLARE: A Fahy; P O’Connor, C Dillon, J Browne; O O’Brien, D McInerney, B Bugler; C Galvin, D Reidy; C Cleary, J Conlon, P Collins; S O’Donnell, T Kelly, A Shanagher. *Subs: *A Cunningham for Conlon (47), D Fitzgerald for Bugler (66)

LIMERICK: N Quaid; T Condon, R McCarthy, R English; D Byrnes, G O’Mahony, P O’Brien; P Browne, D O’Donovan; D Hannon, J Ryan, C Lynch; K Downes, S Dowling, G Mulcahy. Subs: T Morrissey for O’Donovan (h.t.), G Hegarty for Hannon (h.t.), S Hickey for O’Brien (42), B Nash for Mulcahy (56), A Dempsey for English (60)

Referee: J Owens (Wexford)

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